Non-fiction text types - Edexcel Review

Non-fiction texts come in many types, and have many different purposes. They surround us in everyday life but can also come in more sophisticated forms.

A review gives an opinion about anything from a restaurant to a concert.

The most common types of review are film and book reviews, but people also review music, television programmes, theatre performances and computer games.

Critics close critic Someone who reviews books, film or music professionally. often write reviews for a living. They are knowledgeable on certain topics, eg films or music. We trust their judgement and may decide to read a book or watch a film because they persuade us to do so.

All reviews share a number of different purposes. For example, a film review needs:

  • to inform - the review needs to tell people who is in the film, who it is by and where or when readers can see it
  • to describe - the review should describe the story, characters and some of the action - without spoiling the plot or giving too much away
  • to entertain - to provide the reader with their opinion in a way that readers will enjoy, eg with a lively or witty tone
  • to analyse - a good review weighs up whether the film is good or not, giving opinions backed up with reasons and evidence
  • to advise - the review should recommend to the reader whether or not they should go to see the film

The audience of a review varies - this depends on where it is published.

The audience might be specific or general. For example, a specialist computer games magazine will assume their readers have a major interest in gaming and an understanding of specialist terminology close terminology A group of specialised words relating to a particular subject. , such as spawning and simulator . However, a review of a game in a national newspaper, with a much wider audience, would need to simplify the language or explain the terms.

Reviews of popular new books and films aim to reach nationwide audiences - but a local newspaper will review a performance at their own theatre, aimed at local readers.

This is a review of the film The Golden Compass .

A review of a children’s film is probably aimed at parents, who will want to know whether to take their children to see it.

The Golden Compass

Reviewed by Stella Papamichael

Free will is the object of the game in The Golden Compass , a big budget exercise in orienteering where witches and polar bears point the way to enlightenment. You'll have to look between the CG seams to find the original intent of Philip Pullman's atheistic novel, but this isn't the overriding problem. It's that writer/director Chris Weitz doesn't convey a strong enough sense of purpose.

Thank goodness for the star presence of Dakota Blue Richards. She is thoroughly engaging as Lyra, a young girl singled out in prophecy as 'the one' to save all others from some awful yet indeterminate fate. It all sounds a bit messianic really, except that organised religion, represented by The Magisterium, is a force for evil. Nicole Kidman does the ominous eyebrow lifting as a guardian of the establishment who kidnaps children to wrest them from their 'daemons' (the animal sidekicks who embody their better judgment). Among the abductees is Lyra's best friend, and so begins the voyage north to find him.

Many questions raised

Daniel Craig has little to do as Lyra's scientifically minded uncle except hint at potential sequels. The draw is in a simple story of friendship and Lyra's journey of self-discovery. The line-up of curious characters she meets along the way helps to lighten Pullman's otherwise dark material. Sam Elliot is wryly amusing as a cowboy aeronaut and the spectacle of Lyra being carried across the arctic wastelands on the back of a polar bear (voiced by Ian McKellen) will appeal to the child in everyone. Towards the end, some impressively realised battle scenes up the excitement. Disappointingly though, all this magic and mystery fails to lead to any grand unveiling. There are just too many questions raised and not enough answered. Approach this not as a lesson in the facts of life, just a bit of childish escapism.

The Golden Compass is out in the UK on 5 December.

How has the writer structured the text to interest the reader?

  • The review opens with a focus on the fantasy characters and genre of the film, engaging readers with the idea of the film pointing you “to enlightenment” – a journey of discovery.
  • The opening paragraph ends with a short statement summing up the critic’s conclusion that it “doesn’t convey a strong enough sense of purpose”. This raises the question - why not?
  • The focus shifts to the actors and Richards’ “star presence” – this balances the good and bad points. Finishing the paragraph with “the voyage north” continues the sense of a journey.
  • The subheading “Many Questions Raised” is repeated in the final paragraph and highlights the critic’s conclusion that there are “not enough answered”.
  • She balances this with positives – “will appeal to the child in everyone” and “childish escapism” – leaving the reader to decide for themselves whether they want to see it.
  • The review concludes with the key dates. This informs the reader when they can see it.

How does the writer use language to influence the reader?

  • The critic begins with a pun close pun A form of wordplay where a word suggests two or more meanings. on the film’s ‘compass’ title, describing it as “a big budget exercise in orienteering” – implying that a lot of money has been spent producing a simple “find your way” story.
  • A disappointed tone states that you “have to look between the CG seams” to find the “intent” of Pullman’s novel – as if the focus on special effects means the message of the story has been lost.
  • Positive language choices, eg “star presence” and “engaging” are more upbeat as the review appreciates the acting.
  • Humour is used to entertain the reader – “Kidman does the ominous eyebrow lifting” – the caricature close caricature An exaggerated characterisation of someone. A stereotype or archetype could be a caricature. Often used to mock or satirise a type of person. of the villain is amusing rather than frightening. This is more appealing to children.
  • The contrasting adverbs – “ impressively realised battle scenes” and “ disappointingly …fails to lead to any grand unveiling” - captures the feeling of anticlimax the writer experienced when watching the film. A direct statement reinforces this – “too many questions” and “not enough answered”.
  • Describing the film as “childish escapism” suggests that it can still be enjoyed if we don’t expect too much from it. “Escapism” implies a light relief from reality - for both adults and children.

More guides on this topic

  • Purpose and audience - Edexcel
  • Language and structure - Edexcel
  • Responding to a non-fiction text - Edexcel
  • Sample exam question and answer - Edexcel

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A model response: Transactional Writing – review. EDEXCEL IGCSE

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You edit the school magazine. Write a review of the recent school play performance for publication in the magazine.

As you plan, consider the register and tone. This will be dictated by your audience. Since most such magazines are a source of PR for the school the audience will include staff and parents and will, therefore require a formal tone and even if the show is not excellent, you can not really be hyper critical. This might be a case for staying on the positive side of the review.

Choose a play you know. You will not be able to write a sensible review in the allotted time if you have to think of everything from scratch.

Take a position and show your opinions

Alter the perspective by moving from the general to the specific

Ensure names are given in full for formality

Describe the events you choose to include

Aim for Inform, explain, describe to be obvious – short and concise information text becomes more florid in description

Include speech

Remember that a school magazine is publicity. Big up the school…

Variety is all in AO5 – think of the ‘how’ as much as the ‘what’. This matters.

Review: An Inspector Calls. Ryan Theatre, June 22 nd -24 th 2020.  (magazines have headlines)

In the last weeks of term, the school play, J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, played to packed houses in the Ryan Theatre.  It is clear that Mr jones’ gamble in presenting a work so associated with GCSE examinations paid off handsomely.

From the moment the lights went up on the set – the family sitting eating their evening meal, dressed impeccably in white tie and evening dresses, the quality of this production was clear: Mr Rao’s simple but detailed set presented a typical interior of a large suburban home such as many of us who live in Pinner are familiar with. Every detail, from the cutlery to the pictures on the walls (painted by A level students for the occasion) was perfect at capturing the smug complacency of the Birling family.

Arthur Birling, the pompous patriarch of the Birling family was played by James MacMillan in Year 11. He had worked hard to capture the posture of this character – his fat-suit gave him a believable paunch and the use (apparently) of nappies under his trousers allowed him to present the movements of an overweight, middle aged man, so far removed from the boy who holds the Under 16 100 meters record. His delivery of his ‘Titanic’ speech in Act 1 was masterly.

However, biggest credit goes to the portrayal of Sybil Birling by Sanjiv Javed in the Upper 6 th . Sanjiv has long been a stalwart of our shows – his performance as Bottom last year lives long in the memory – but the idea of playing a middle-aged woman offered him a new challenge. And he met it brilliantly! This was no drag act, but a performance of depth, and also one which gained sympathy as she realised her family was collapsing around her. Bravo.

Elsewhere, our guests from St Hilda’s performed with aplomb as Sheila and as the ghost of Eva, seen in an entr’acte written especially for this production by Mr Crumb, the Head of English. This departure from the text provoked interested comment. Several year 11 students were eager to comment. Tommy Box was particularly enthusiastic: ‘Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.’ He said, ’It was amazing to hear the voice of Eva in that way.’ Congratulations to Maisie Armstrong and Vidhu Sharma.

Jason Kane oozed charm as Gerald, and despite an accident with the decanter of port in Act 1 , the youngest member of the cast, George Smithies (year 8!) was an excellent Eric who grew in confidence almost visibly as the show went on.

Too often, school productions seem to come together by a process of luck and ‘Dr Greasepaint’. This show was different: this show would have graced any professional theatre. Many congratulations to all concerned.

This may not be perfect. It is not meant to be, but I have written it to challenge my Year 11s to improve it and to consider their own approaches to this kind of task.  Enjoy the exploration.

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